Carla Baron, Psychic Detective?
The Independent Investigations Group has been examining the public claims of Carla Baron a self-proclaimed "psychic detective" who has solved fifty cases in the past twenty years, or has solved no cases in the past three years, depending on whether you believe her or us.
According to her official website*, "Ms. Baron tirelessly dedicates herself to ‘honing’ her skills in order to provide assistance to those individuals and organizations who seek ‘the truth’." Please note that the quotes around ‘the truth’ are exactly as they appear on Carla's site.
*Her current (2012) website is now located here.
Baron claims to have worked on numerous cases, most of which involve either missing persons or homicides with no suspect. Most of the cases involve a victim who is young and female, and typically Baron is working directly with the family. We tracked every claim Baron has made publicly that we are aware of and contacted the official police investigator assigned to the case whenever possible. We have contacted media professionals who have done work with or about Baron and researched articles that refer to her. In some cases, we have also contacted friends and families of the victims.
We have also observed her techniques up close by attending two live seminars in which Baron appeared, on December 6, 2003, and March 20, 2004. At the first event, some IIG members received personalized readings from Baron, and based on this interaction we can confidently state that Baron is using "cold reading" -- a conjurer's trick of simply making stuff up, but making it appear that you are producing specialized knowledge by supernatural means. All her predictions were broad and vague, and gave us no reason to believe that she had any paranormal abilities. In fact, one of our investigators was told that he would get a new job at which he will produce "a service or some kind of product."
While we were unable to get information on some of her claims, every case we investigated was either solved without Baron’s involvement or remains unsolved. Either way, her claims of being a "psychic detective" are completely unsubstantiated.
Baron herself has characterized the role of a psychic in criminal investigations:
"Psychics don’t solve cases. They assist in providing the unknown, the missing piece of the puzzle."1
"[P]sychic flashbacks don't solve the cases, but they certainly add new layers of insight and information."2
"[P]sychics are not meant to solve cases. They're meant to ‘help connect the dots.’"3
"I don’t think it’s about the accuracy. I think it’s about the assistance that I give."4
But how can you assist people with inaccurate information? Doesn't providing the missing piece of the puzzle, or insight and information, or connecting the dots usually lead to a solution? Implicit in the claim of being a "psychic detective" is the claim that you provide accurate information that leads to the successful resolution of a mystery. Imagine if a police detective said, "police detectives don’t actually solve the case, they just come up with ideas and hope for the best." Such a statement would not generate much confidence in police procedure, and rightly so.
Following are details on fourteen cases with which Baron has claimed some kind of involvement. They are in chronological order, by date of the victim’s murder or initial disappearance. Explicit and upsetting details of violent crimes have been kept to a minimum, and the names of individuals who have been accused of these crimes but have not been identified by police as a suspect have been omitted.
35 years old at time of murder.
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
CRIME: Found murdered on June 12, 1994.
SUSPECT: Ex-husband O.J. Simpson tried and acquitted.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Denise Brown, sister.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: LAPD
BARON’S CLAIM: Baron states in her publicity materials that she worked on the "O.J. Simpson Case." She has also said that she "did some channeling work"5 on the case. When asked for specifics at a seminar on March 20, 2004, she said that she worked with the Brown family.
IIG'S FINDINGS: We contacted Nicole’s sister, Denise Brown, the primary family spokesperson during the trials, and now an outspoken advocate for battered women and victims of violent crime. She states unequivocally, "I've never heard of this person," and adds that no one in her family has ever heard of her either. It seems clear that Baron’s claim that she worked on the "O.J. Simpson Case" is baseless.
For more information: Nicole Brown Charitable Foundation
6 years old at time of murder.
LOCATION: Boulder, CO
CRIME: Found murdered on December 25, 1996
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: None.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Detective Tom Bennett, Boulder Colorado Police, is one of many investigating officials.
BARON’S CLAIM: Baron told a student newspaper that she worked on a case "like the JonBenet Ramsey. . . case,"6 but could not state that she worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case specifically because it still "remains open."7
IIG'S FINDINGS: The interviewer, Adam Smeltz, apparently insisted that she clarify the comment about JonBenet Ramsey, and she backed off. Interpreting this statement as a claim that she worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case, we contacted Detective Tom Bennett, who stated, "No psychic has provided any useful information," adding that he had never even heard of Carla Baron.
For more information: The JonBenet Ramsey Case on CNN
20 years old at time of murder.
LOCATION: Dell, AR
CRIME: Went missing June 15, 2000. Found murdered on June 19, 2000.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Susan Tusing, mother.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Detective Gary Etter, Craigshead County Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: In January of 2004, Susan Tusing contacted Carla Baron and received a telephone reading. During this conversation, Baron provided a name for the man Baron claims was the killer.8 This is significant since Baron’s claims are usually vague.
IIG'S FINDINGS: The investigation into the murder of Mandy Tusing had been going for years without resolution. Family members and police investigators are very frustrated at this point and willing to try anything, which may explain why Detective Etter was willing to talk to Carla Baron at Susan Tusing’s request. The local media ran several stories on Baron’s involvement when Detective Etter began communicating with her.
We talked to Detective Etter both before and after police interviewed the man fingered by Baron. After the interview, Detective Etter claims that there was "no way he could have done it." Media coverage of the case and Baron's involvement stopped after Detective Etter cleared this man of all suspicion. Interestingly, this man was looked at years earlier, but the police didn’t feel he was a viable suspect. They interviewed him recently only at the urging of Susan Tusing.
In our interview, Detective Etter made it sound like Baron produced a letter of the alphabet and that Susan Tusing then volunteered the name. However, Detective Etter specifically said that Baron’s conversation with Susan Tusing was not a "cold reading." Without a transcript, we cannot say for sure.
Etter still has a positive attitude about Baron’s involvement. He says that she helped garner publicity for the case, which is true. The local press paid little attention to the case until they could print "Mother of slain woman finds comfort from psychic."9
For the most part, Detective Etter praised Baron, but he also opined that she wants to "gain media attention. . . ;" "she wants recognition" because "that’s where you make your money." Nonetheless, he insists that Baron was "trying her best to help."
For more information: State to State Unsolved Crimes -- Amanda Tusing Profile
TINA AND BETHANY SINCLAIR (Mother and Daughter)
TINA: 35 years old at time of disappearance.
BETHANY: 15 years old at time of disappearance.
LOCATION: Chesterfield, NH
CRIME: Missing since February 4, 2001, presumed dead.
SUSPECTS: None, but a "person of interest" was named.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Sharon Garry, Tina’s sister and Bethany’s aunt.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: New Hampshire State Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: More than two years after the Sinclairs disappeared, Sharon Garry called Baron after seeing her on Court TV’s "Psychic Detectives" (see more on this under "CINDY SONG"). In a reading given around July 2003, Baron said that Tina and Bethany were "likely the victims of an angry, impulsive act," and that their bodies were now somewhere "dark."10
IIG'S FINDINGS: On July 19, 2003, following Baron’s instructions, Garry lead a search party to Mount Wantastiquet, where they combed an area that had already been thoroughly searched by police. The following month, they conducted another search. During both searches, Garry happened upon seemingly irrelevant clues. For example, she found a random sock and claimed that it was "unusual to be found in those areas."11 She seems to imply that Baron’s claims bore some legitimacy. Ms. Garry also claims to have found a bucket and a shovel "where a psychic said it would be."12 However, the name of this psychic was not given.
The New Hampshire Attorney General had assigned Trooper Jayson S. Almstrom to be present during the search. Trooper Almstrom made it very clear that the police put "no weight into what Carla Baron had said." He says he was present in case the citizens searching the area uncovered something and to ensure their safety. However, many saw his presence as validating the search.
Baron has posted several articles about her involvement on her web site, and even issued a press release. Nevertheless, three years later, the disappearance of Tina and Bethany Sinclair remains a mystery.
For more information: New Hampshire State Police -- Sinclair Profile
11 years old at time of disappearance.
LOCATION: Jackson, TN
CRIME: Missing since March 4, 2001
SUSPECT: Unidentified white female with "a disheveled and unkempt appearance." She may have attempted to enroll Bethany in a public school under a new name on 7/23/2001.13
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Jonnie Carter, mother.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Lt. Mike Holt, Jackson Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: Baron claims that Bethany is in a "forestry area. . . on a country road off a main highway. . . in some sort of ravine."14
IIG'S FINDINGS: Jonnie Carter had a telephone reading from Baron in September 2003, and says that Baron "told me things about [Bethany's] personality and wit that she couldn't have known."15
Lt. Mike Holt of the Jackson Police issued a general challenge to psychics: "Give me an address!" Lt. Holt says that the psychics call these moms with "a good sales pitch" and that "they ask you as much as they tell you;" that they are "good investigators" who pick up information from the subject and "pair it with what they pick out of the news media."
Baron may have provided some comfort to Bethany’s mother, but the case remains unsolved.
For more information: FBI Missing Person -- Markowski Profile
RUTH AND ALEXIS "LEXI" TELLO (Mother and Daughter)
RUTH: 37 years old at time of murder.
ALEXIS: 13 years old at time of murder.
LOCATION: Cathedral City, CA
CRIME: Found murdered March 2001. "The torsos of Tello’s wife and daughter were found on March 16, 2001, in the Edom Hill area of Cathedral City, near a dump site. In April 2001, skeletal remains, later determined to be theirs, were discovered off Interstate 10 near Chiriaco Summit."16
CULPRIT: Ruth’s husband and Alexis’s father, Rafael Tello convicted of the murder in April 2002 and sentenced to fifty years in prison.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Unnamed (SEE BELOW).
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Officer Nick Chapman, Cathedral City Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: On April 15, 2004, ABC ran a segment during their "Primetime Thursday" program contending that Carla Baron lead police to the skeletal remains of Ruth and Alexis. The segment contains videotape footage of Baron working with an unidentified police officer whose face was blurred out. She is seen describing the crime to the anonymous officer, saying, "I’m going to a factory because I am seeing these tall like pillars, smoky things, smokestacks. . . They’re probably a 40-mile drive from where they were first dumped."17 She went on to say that the remains had been incinerated. The segment further contends that partial skeletal remains were found 38 miles south of the Edom Hill dump site where the torsos were found;18 presumably this is the Chiriaco Summit area. The story further implies that Baron lead investigators to the site.
IIG'S FINDINGS: Not so, says the investigating officer Nick Chapman. Not only does he insist that, to his knowledge, Baron had nothing to do with the case, but he says that ABC News was "very persistent" in trying to get a quote from him concerning Baron’s claims. Furthermore, according to Officer Chapman, Ruth and Alexis' relatives did not want this story on television and Primetime violated their specific instructions not to air it.
More importantly, it has been documented that the missing skeletal remains were found by hikers, not police or psychics.19 Dallas skeptic Curtis Cameron mentions this in an open letter to ABC. He adds, "[Y]ou tried to make it appear that Ms. Baron got a "hit" by describing the smokestacks and saying that the body parts were incinerated. In the pictures you showed, the building didn't appear to have incinerator smokestacks, but things on the roof that looked like they could be ventilation, or possibly chimneys. And you glossed over the fact that the body parts weren’t incinerated. So in light of this, how does this case support her abilities?"20
As for who is depicted in the videotape aired on "Primetime Thursday" and who shot it, no one is identified. Michelle Webb, the producer of the segment, was unreachable, so we have no information on the source of the tape, nor whether it depicted actual events or was a staged recreation.
21 years old at time of disappearance.
LOCATION: Ferguson Township, PA (Penn State University)
CRIME: Missing since November 1, 2001, after attending a Halloween party.
SUSPECTS: None, but a "person of interest" was named.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Bansoon Song, Cindy’s mother.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Detective Brian Sprinkle, Ferguson Township Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: Baron has received a great deal of exposure for her involvement in the investigation into the disappearance of Cindy Song. There is an episode of Court TV’s "Psychic Detectives" devoted to it, as well as a segment of "ABC Primetime Thursday." Baron claimed to "see" Cindy being abducted by two men.
IIG'S FINDINGS: The reason this case has gotten so much press is that it is the only case where the police called in Baron and are actively involved with her. Detective Brian Sprinkle called Baron around May of 2002 at the behest of Penn State’s "Paranormal Research Society." Det. Sprinkle then had several phone consultations with Baron, and met with her in person in June 2002 for a taping of Court TV’s "Psychic Detectives." They met again in October 2003 for "ABC Primetime Thursday." It is worth noting that in the Court TV segment, recorded in June 2002, she said, "I think we’re going to solve this. I think it’s soon. I think we’re coming to a completion here."21
In the Court TV segment, Baron wanders the railroad tracks of Center County, Pennsylvania, but in the ABC segment, she leads Det. Sprinkle to a spot at which she says Cindy’s body was dumped. In the ABC segment, Baron says that Cindy’s body will be found somewhere with "rocks."22 When Det. Sprinkle drove her to an area underneath railroad tracks, she said, "that’s exactly what it looks like,"23 as if her psychic powers have been confirmed by an unbiased, third party. In the Court TV program, she goes to a park and says, "My God, it’s just like I saw it," adding, "I was kind of surprised at how much these details matched" (her emphasis).24
The ABC segment does not show Baron having any actual success, though an unsubstantiated narration at the very end of the show says, "A few weeks after our search, Detective Sprinkle says an informant gave details, possibly linking Cindy’s disappearance to the very area we searched."25
We interviewed Detective Sprinkle on April 20, 2004, the Tuesday following the ABC program's airing, and he describes this quote from ABC differently. He believes that this quote is in reference to the State Police having an informant who believes that Cindy was abducted by two men. This would confirm Baron's claim that Cindy was abducted by two men, if it is accurate, but Sprinkle noted that "nothing of that information from the informants has been proved or disproved." Besides, Baron was given the name of two persons of interest by the police, so the claim that Cindy was abducted by two men is hardly a psychic prediction. Regardless, this has nothing to do with the location Baron pointed out. ABC's claim that Baron's information has been confirmed by a reliable source is completely unsubstantiated.
In their online article summarizing the segment, ABC reported that "an informant has given details possibly linking Song's disappearance and the area where Baron says she got the strongest vibes,"26 leaving out the reference to Det. Sprinkle. We attempted several times to contact the segment producer, Michelle Webb, to clarify this statement, but she did not return our calls.
Detective Sprinkle was very honest and open during our conversation. He stated that none of Baron’s information has been confirmed by any other source. He said that he was impressed by Carla’s track record, but was unable to cite any specific case she had worked on that impressed him. In the end, he praised her for "her dedication; the fact that she, you know, she took the case personally."
Cindy's mother, Bansoon Song, has been quoted in newspaper articles and television reports, but has said nothing on the record about Carla Baron.
For more information: FBI Missing Person -- Song Profile
44 years old at time of death.
LOCATION: New York City, NY
CRIME: Missing since March 3, 2002. Body found in East River, May 6, 2002. Cause of death remains a mystery.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Dr. Alexander Aronov, husband.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: NYPD
IIG'S FINDINGS: Baron apparently counseled Svetlana’s widower, Dr. Alexander Aronov. We have been unable to further research this case, because Dr. Aronov has said so little, and we were unable to reach anyone at the NYPD who would comment.
Fortunately, Melanie Lefkowitz wrote a comprehensive article on the subject for New York Newsday debunking Baron's claims. Since this article is posted on the website run by Svetlana’s friends and family, we assume that they endorse Lefkowitz’s point of view. The article quotes friends of Aronov decrying Baron, and the police denouncing her psychic vision as "far-fetched."
Baron’s failure did not stop her from heavily publicizing her "work" on the case. In fact, at her Los Angeles seminars, she lists Svetlana Aronov after O.J. Simpson and Elizabeth Smart under "cases include."
For more information: Svetlana Aronov Official Site
14 years old at time of abduction.
LOCATION: Salt Lake City, UT
CRIME: Abducted June 6, 2002. Found alive March 13, 2003.
SUSPECT: Cult leader Brian David Mitchell known to his followers as "Emmanuel" and his wife Wanda Ilene Barzee. Both are currently in custody.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Ed Smart, father.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Salt Lake City Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: On March 13, 2003, Carla Baron appeared on Los Angeles radio station KOST’s "The Mark & Kim Morning Show" to announce that she had correctly predicted that Elizabeth Smart was alive.28 In addition, in this interview and in other statements she claims that Elizabeth’s father, Ed Smart, received information directly from her, albeit via a tip hotline operator. Baron says that on July 9, 2002, she called the 1-800 hotline set up for information about Elizabeth's disappearance, spoke to a "Melinda," and gave her a reading. Baron further contends that Melinda passed the information directly to Ed Smart. Baron's publicity materials claim that this is among the cases she has worked on.
IIG'S FINDINGS: We could not find any evidence of this call. It is strictly Baron’s assertion that she spoke to someone named Melinda. Nor have we been able to contact Ed Smart. However, he is quoted by a Florida television station as saying that "the family didn't get any valuable information from any psychics."29
Baron has continually stated that she is the only psychic who predicted that Elizabeth Smart was alive. Not so, says Salt Lake City Police Chief Executive Officer Lieutenant Chris Burbank. Lt. Burbank says that of the 18,000 specific tips the department received on Elizabeth Smart during the nine months she was missing, half of them -- 9,000 -- came from either proclaimed psychics or people using psychic-sounding language (e.g., "I had a dream," "I had a vision"). While Lt. Burbank could not accurately say how many of these people predicted Elizabeth Smart was alive, he knows there were a number of them, because many of them called back after Elizabeth was found to say, "I told you so." Lt. Burbank added that it is "more difficult to focus your efforts" with all these kinds of phone calls that require "many police hours" to field and follow up on. Needless to say, this leads to wasted police effort at taxpayer's expense.
For more information: Elizabeth Smart found alive -- CNN
SARAH AND PHILIP GEHRING (Brother and Sister)
SARAH: 14 years old at time of murder.
PHILLIP: 11 years old at time of murder.
LOCATION: Concord, NH
CRIME: Missing since July 4, 2003, presumed dead.
CULPRIT: The children’s father, Manuel Gehring, confessed to the murder on July 30, 2003, and committed suicide on February 19, 2004.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Terri Knight, mother.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Concord Police and FBI.
BARON’S CLAIM: Carla Baron claimed in a press release that the "bodies are likely to be near New Hampshire,"30 and adds, in the third person, "Ordinarily, Baron does not offer unsolicited advice, but is making an exception in this case because her vision had such clarity and force."31
IIG'S FINDINGS: In fact, "near New Hampshire" is not a particularly clear or forceful statement. Her claim is that the bodies are "near" an area approximately 190 miles long by 70 miles wide and covering 9,351 square miles. Otherwise, this is typical of many of Baron's cases, in that it remains a big mystery. The children’s bodies were never found, and Manuel Gehring has taken that location with him to the grave. What is atypical is that Baron admits that her involvement was completely unsolicited.
Neither the police, nor a family member or friend of the victims was working with Baron as of her December 6, 2003, seminar, when she claimed that she was "working on" the Gehring case.
This changed on May 20, 2004, when the children's mother, and Manuel's ex-wife, Terri Knight, contacted Carla Baron.32 It is unclear if Baron produced any new information during this conversation, but Sarah and Phillip remain missing.
KATIE AND JAYDEN KENNEY (Mother and Son)
KATIE: 18 years old at time of disappearance.
JAYDEN: Less than one year old at time of disappearance.
LOCATION: Brattleboro, VT
CRIME: None. They were reported missing July 13, 2003, and found alive on August 19, 2003.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Kathy Kenney, mother.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Brattleboro police did a welfare check.
BARON’S CLAIM: Baron had been in touch with Katie’s mother, Kathy, and consoled her with the knowledge that her daughter and grandson were alive. Baron: "Psychics aren't always harbingers of doom. . . I just told her what I saw."33
Shortly after trying to capitalize on the return of Elizabeth Smart, claiming that she "got it right," Baron tried to reinforce this notion by saying that she "gets it right once again"34 on Katie and Jayden Kenney.
IIG'S FINDINGS: In fact, no one actually involved with the case ever thought Katie and Jayden were dead. Captain Eugene Wrinn of the Brattleboro Police says that this was never a missing person’s case. They wanted to do a "welfare check" on the two, since Kathy had lost touch with them. Capt. Wrinn stated that there was "no reason to believe that they were missing against their will."
Based on Captain Wrinn’s interview and Baron’s press release, it seems apparent the Kenney’s were never missing at all; they were simply out of contact with the young woman’s mother. We can understand why a mother would be worried, but there was no "rescue"35 here. The police located them, and got them in touch with Kathy.
25 years old at time of death.
LOCATION: Shelbyville, IN
CRIME: Went missing August 12, 2003. A body was found in a cornfield on March 10, 2004, and identified as Trevor Israel on March 29, 2004. He had committed suicide.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Lloyd Israel, father.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Detective Dave Tilford, Shelbyville Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: When Trevor Israel went missing, Lloyd Israel got in touch with Carla Baron, who told him that his son had committed suicide. Baron said that the body would be found "up a slight incline in a cornfield, with a wire fence and a telephone pole nearby."36
IIG'S FINDINGS: Baron's description matches almost all of Indiana, a state that is 36,000 square miles in size. That didn’t stop the Shelbyville News from reporting that Trevor’s body was found "exactly"37 where Baron said. On the ABC Primetime Thursday segment, they also stated the body was "exactly"38 where Baron said.
Another thing that the Shelbyville News and the ABC account have in common is that they make it sound like there was big mystery. However, from the beginning, the police believed that the young man's body lay hidden in the cornfield.
The corn was six feet high during the search that took place on August 13-14, 2003, preventing both humans and hounds from navigating the field. A few months later, the whole area was covered in snow. In an objectively unfair piece of reporting, ABC showed a picture of the cornfield in March after the stalks had been razed and the snow had melted, and they said it was "hard to understand"39 how the police could not find the body.
The truth is that Detective Dave Tilford didn’t even know about Baron’s "vision" until March 18, 204, eight days after he found Trevor’s body. ABC correctly reported this, while the Shelbyville News claims that there was a second search conducted by the police based on Baron’s information.40 This does not fit into the time line given by Det. Tilford, and we do not know the source for the Shelbyville News claim. Baron did not lead investigators to the body, and in fact contributed nothing to the case.
But the story does not end there. The Associated Press reports that Baron "helped lead police to finding the body of a man who had committed suicide in a cornfield in the Midwest."41 The Portsmouth-Herald42 and the Caledonian-Record43 reported the same thing verbatim. On that same day, the Boston Globe reports that Baron "led investigators directly to victims,"44 without specifying a case, and then on April 16, 2004, they reported, "She has aided numerous police departments in missing persons and homicide cases."45 On May 20, 2004, the Eagle Tribune reported that "she recently helped find the remains of Trevor Israel, who had been missing for seven months, in a cornfield outside Indianapolis."46 All of these claims are patently false.
32 years old at time of disappearance.
LOCATION: San Antonio, TX
CRIME: Missing since January 16, 2004.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Gabby Reyes, sister.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: San Antonio Police.
BARON’S CLAIM: No specific information from Baron has become available.
IIG'S FINDINGS: Mari’s sister, Gabby Reyes, contacted Baron after seeing her on ABC’s Primetime Thursday segment.47 Unfortunately, her actual reading was not available to us at the time of this report’s publication. However, San Antonio news services reported that Baron "said some things that weren't public knowledge,"48 and "she gave me information that only I and my family knew."49
Even more unfortunately, Mari is still missing.
For more information: http://members.cox.net/kelly_projectjason/index_files/page0005.htm
21 years old at time of disappearance.
LOCATION: Haverhill, NH
CRIME: Missing since February 9, 2004.
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON/CONTACT: Fred Murray, father.
INVESTIGATING OFFICER/AGENCY: Lieutenant John Scarinza, New Hampshire State Police Lead Investigator.
BARON’S CLAIM: Maura "hitched a ride with ‘a clean-cut looking man,’"50 which is unlikely, since it is known that she earlier refused a ride from a bus driver. Baron further contends that "Clean-Cut Looking Man" was a serial killer, and that he buried Maura’s body "in a sparsely wooded area."51
IIG'S FINDINGS: The way the media reports it, Maura Murray had it all. She was a nursing student at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a track star, and she had a boyfriend and a bright future. Then, one day she packed up all of her belongings and left school. Worse yet, she crashed her car at 3 o’clock in the morning, came home, withdrew money from her bank account, and the next day headed to Vermont. A bus driver spotted her on a remote road in New Hampshire and called the police. Maura was never seen again.
Maura’s father, Fred Murray, contacted Baron sometime in March 2004. It is worth noting that Maura’s mother rejects Baron help, saying simply "I don't believe her. . . I don’t believe in [psychics] at all."52 And Maura’s boyfriend, Bill Rausch, has stated in an interview with the online support group, the Child Seek Network, "To involve additional assistance such as a psychic, I personally cannot fathom how that could be of help."53 The Child Seek Network does not endorse the use of psychics in missing persons' cases.
In April 2004, Baron had a conversation with Lieutenant John Scarinza, on the prompting of Fred Murray. We have noticed that, with the major exception of Det. Brian Sprinkle, the police never initiate contact with or talk directly to Carla unless urged by a family member or friend of the victim. In any case, Lt. Scarinza told us, simply, "The information provided [by Baron] did not produce any new leads in the investigation as to why [Maura Murray] disappeared, or what happened to her."
For more information: http://www.spbowers.com/mauramissing.html
From the 14 cases that Carla Baron promotes as her best work, we can positively conclude that her claims of being a psychic detective are unsubstantiated. However, there are two alternate theories that are so widely promulgated that we feel we must address them as well.
Alternate Theory #1:
Some say that the police do use psychics, but keep the whole affair secret. If so, the negative responses we got from the police detectives we interviewed could be discounted as covering up, jealousy, or the denials of what an anonymous Baron fan has called "an antiquated patriarchy."
But is this consistent with the behavior of police professionals? If you look at any major breakthrough in forensics, such as fingerprinting, DNA, or behavioral profiling, police openly praise these techniques and utilize them as soon as they are determined to be useful.
Are police secretive? When a case is still ongoing, it is often necessary to keep certain details about the crime from the public. There are several reasons for this practice. Withholding specific details can make it possible to determine if the same perpetrator is involved in similar, subsequent crimes. Also, some details are very grisly and not fit for public consumption. Finally, it’s not unusual for innocent people to confess to the crime for reasons known only to them. Keeping some key details secret is a way of ferreting out false confessions.
However, it is not in the nature of police officers to be secretive about the actual solving of a case. Once the case is solved, there is usually a trial, and the investigators couldn’t very well keep the use of a "psychic detective" a secret, given the transparent nature of our legal system.
Alternate Theory #2:
Some may say that Baron provides "closure" to the friends and family members she counsels, or offers some kind of vague but very positive assistance. This idea is supported by the fact that so many of the grieving parties with whom she corresponds report on her favorably. If this argument were used to justify her "services," it would be foolhardy, perhaps even cruel, to focus on her failure to provide anything tangible to the investigation.
This theory, however, is completely refuted by the simple fact that Baron is not calling herself a grief counselor. She has no such credentials that we know of, and we maintain she may be doing more harm than good in this arena. Besides, how could she be providing closure when she hasn’t brought anything to a close? As far as we can tell, her "assistance" consists of soothing language and nebulous affirmations. Surely it doesn’t require psychic powers to provide a few kind words to the suffering.
Anyone who believes that Baron is some kind of humanitarian should consider this: she charges about fifty dollars per person for her seminars, and then two hundred dollars an hour for a personal reading. She attracts people to these events with claims of solving cases. She also needs publicity for her career as a television personality; she has appeared on several television shows as a psychic, and gets paid, just like any performer. So her psychic detective career serves as a publicity device.
Carla Baron herself issues press releases about many of the cases with which she caims involvement. This shows exactly how she uses these cases as a publicity device. Publicity has a cash value; that’s why for-profit public relations firms exist. Baron's claim that she does not charge for missing persons cases may be technically true. However, she profits heavily from these activities with the publicity that they create for her, and she does widely promote herself.
If you take a close look at all the cold cases currently in America, things certainly look bleak. But what about the other side of the coin? What about the solved cases? If you leave a fingerprint at the crime scene, we have the technology to find you. If you leave a drop of blood, a piece of skin, or a hair, we can find you. If a child is abducted in a town like Los Angeles, motorists in the area are alerted by "Amber Alerts" on our electronic billboards. Cable TV viewers are notified by a "crawl" on every channel displaying the type of car and a physical description of the suspect. Television shows viewed by millions are dedicated to finding missing children, and grieving families can support each other on internet sites. None of this existed just a few years ago; a missing person was pretty much a lost cause. This was a time when things were bleak.
Why do we have this powerful infrastructure for locating missing and abducted persons? Because we are basically a caring society. We have dedicated enormous amounts of our collective resources to protecting each other, and we do it quite well. Forensic science was developed out of compassion.
"Psychic Detectives" claim to have compassion, but they cannot produce the consistent results that science-based procedures do, so it’s a hollow claim.
Unfortunately, forensic science cannot be utilized when the perpetrator leaves no clues behind, and that's the distressing situation faced by many of the family members profiled in this report. We do not have the answers for them, and we recognize that this is a central element of their grief the lack of answers.
The only advice we’re qualified to give to someone in that position is this: it would be very easy for someone to take advantage of your confusion and grief, but don’t let them. This does nothing to honor the memory of your lost loved ones, and if they were here, they would want to protect you from this as well.
1 Perry, Kelley Walker. "Psychic on target in discovery." Shelbyville News 17 March 2004. http://www.shelbynews.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=27643&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=93&S=1
2 Barlow, Daniel. "Psychic 'sees' Sinclair women's fate." Brattleboro Reformer 15 July 2003. Found only on Carla’s web site.
3 Chesier, Tajuana. "Reluctantly, missing girl's mom seeks out psychic." Jackson Sun 15 September 2003. Found only on Carla’s web site.
4 "Clues from Beyond." ABC Primetime Thursday. KABC, Los Angeles. 15 April 2004. Produced by Michelle Webb.
5 Interview with Carla Baron. Child Seek Network 21 June 2003. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2003/6/prweb70121.php
6 Smeltz, Adam. "Psychic helping in search for Song." Penn State Centre Daily 23 May 2002. http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centredaily/news/3320768.htm
9 Hankins, Stephen. "Mother of slain woman finds comfort from psychic." Jonesboro Sun 11 January 2004. http://www.jonesborosun.com/archivedstory.asp?ID=7646
10 Seitz, Stephen. "Psychic advises Sinclair family in search for mother, daughter." Manchester Union Leader 16 July 2003. Found only on Carla’s web site.
11 "Volunteers renew search for mother and daughter." Concord Monitor 21 July 2003. Found only on Carla’s web site.
12 "Searchers keep looking for clues." Associated Press 4 August 2003. http://p075.ezboard.com/fisthatso89415frm217.showMessage?topicID=35.topic
13 Chesier, Tajuana. "Reluctantly, missing girl's mom seeks out psychic." Jackson Sun 15 September 2003. Found only on Carla’s web site.
16 Mahr, Christine. "Killer to serve at least 50 years: Judge sentences man who pleaded guilty to murder, dismemberment of wife, daughter." The Desert Sun 6 April 2002. http://www.thedesertsun.com/news/stories/local/1018056962.shtml
17 "Help from the other side: to find missing college student, ‘psychic detective’ enlisted." ABC Primetime Thursday web page 15 April 2004. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Primetime/US/psychic_detective_040415.html
19 Mahr, Christine. "Hearing date moved for man accused of killing wife, daughter." The Desert Sun 12 December 2001. http://www.thedesertsun.com/news/stories/local/1008116573.shtml
20 "Great letter exposing the errors of ABC'S Primetime Thursday," written by Curtis Cameron. E-SKEPTIC #17 4 May 2004. http://mailman.efn.org/pipermail/skeptix/Week-of-Mon-20040503/000156.html
21 "Psychic Detectives Pilot." Court TV February 2003.
23 "Clues from Beyond." ABC Primetime Thursday. KABC, Los Angeles. 15 April 2004. Produced by Michelle Webb.
24 "Psychic Detectives Pilot." Court TV February 2003.
25 "Clues from Beyond." ABC Primetime Thursday. KABC, Los Angeles. 15 April 2004. Produced by Michelle Webb.
26 "Help from the other side: to find missing college student, ‘psychic detective’ enlisted." ABC Primetime Thursday web page 15 April 2004. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Primetime/US/psychic_detective_040415.html
27 Lefkowitz, Melanie. "Sometimes cops look for psychic 'help' yet that 'help' in missing-persons cases often raises false hope." New York Newsday 28 June 2003. http://www.svetlanaaronov.com/articles/0628newsday.htm
28 "The Mark & Kim Morning Show." KOST 103.5 FM, Los Angeles. 13 March 2003.
29 WPEC Press Release. 15 August 2003. http://www.wpecnews12.com/engine.pl? station=wpec&id=6062&template=pagesearch.html
30 "Renowned nationally known psychic, Carla Baron, maintains ‘the crosses are the key’ in ongoing search for Gehring gravesites." prweb.com publicity release from Carla Baron. 9 October 2003. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2003/10/prweb83881.htm
32 Tuohy, Dan. "Psychics sense children may be buried in N.H." Eagle Tribune 20 May 2004. http://www.eagletribune.com/news/stories/20040520/NH_002.htm
33 Seitz, Stephen. "Well-known psychic investigator, Carla Baron, gets it ‘right’ once again for Vermont missing mother, son." Unknown publication, recirculated as press release for Carla Baron, 23 August 2003. http://television.press-world.com/v/2230.html
36 Perry, Kelley Walker. "Psychic on target in discovery." Shelbyville News 17 March 2004. http://www.shelbynews.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=27643&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=93&S=1
38 "Clues from Beyond." ABC Primetime Thursday. KABC, Los Angeles. 15 April 2004. Produced by Michelle Webb.
40 Perry, Kelley Walker. "Psychic on target in discovery." Shelbyville News 17 March 2004. http://www.shelbynews.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=27643&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=93&S=1
41 "Missing student’s family turns to psychic." Associated Press 11 April 2004. http://angelsmissing.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=71
42 "Psychic tells family that missing woman is dead." Portsmouth Herald 11 April 2004. http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/04112004/south_of/10095.htm
43 Lindsley, Gary E. "Murray's family enlists help from psychic profiler." Caledonian-Record 10 April 2004. http://www.caledonianrecord.com/pages/top_news/story/85d290a6c
44 DeMarco, Peter.
"Missing student's kin skeptical of psychic." Boston Globe 11 April 2004. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/04/11/
45 DeMarco, Peter. "N.H. police consult psychic on missing woman?" Boston Globe 16 April 2004. Story unavailable without subscription.
46 Davis, Vincent T. "Missing woman's case eyed by psychic." San Antonio Express-News 26 April 2004. Found only on Carla’s web site.
47 Tuohy, Dan. "Psychics sense children may be buried in N.H." Eagle Tribune 20 May 2004. http://www.eagletribune.com/news/stories/20040520/NH_002.htm
49 Lozada, James. "Family calls psychic for closure." News 9, San Antonio, Texas 27 April 2004. http://www.news9sanantonio.com/content/headlines/?SecID=2&ArID=10783
50 DeMarco, Peter.
"Missing student's kin skeptical of psychic." Boston Globe 11 April 2004. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/04/11/
53 Child Seek Network. 14 April 2004. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/4/prwebxml118375.php